Monday, June 26, 2017

The silent corner : by Dean Koontz.

Booklist Reviews 2017 May #1
When FBI agent Jane Hawk's husband inexplicably kills himself, she wants to know why. After some digging, she discovers that a lot of people have been taking their own lives lately, people who by all accounts had no apparent reason for ending them prematurely. Knowing she could be signing her own death warrant, Jane puts her career and life on the line to find out who's behind this wave of suicides. Billed as the first in a new series, this gripping thriller grabs readers from the first few pages and sweeps them along to the rousing finale. Long an A-list best-seller, Koontz has always delivered the goods, whether he's tackling science fiction, horror, or thrillers (notably the Odd Thomas series). That varied bibliography now adds a new series and an exciting new heroine. Expect the usual clamor for copies among the faithful, who are certain to embrace Jane Hawk immediately and eagerly await the next installment.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: As he testifies in a letter to his readers prefacing the ARC of The Silent Corner, Koontz was enthralled by his new character and felt renewed as a writer by creating her. Readers will be equally enthralled, helped along by a "Blockbuster National Marketing & Publicity Campaign."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Domina by L.S. Hilton,looking foward to this

"In this riveting sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Maestra, femme fatale Judith Rashleigh once again leads readers into the mesmerizing and dangerous underworld of Europe's glamorous elite. Since opening her own art gallery in Venice, Judith Rashleigh--now Elisabeth Teerlinc--can finally stop running. She's got the paycheck, lifestyle, and wardrobe she always dreamed of, not to mention the interest of a Russian billionaire. But when a chance encounter in Ibiza leads to a corpse that is, for once, not her own doing, she finds her life is back on the line--and she's more alone than ever. It seems Judith's become involved with more than just one stolen painting, and there is someone else willing to kill for what's theirs. From St. Moritz toSerbia, Judith again finds herself maneuvering the strange landscapes of wealth, but this time there's far more than her reputation at stake. How far will Rage take Judith? Far enough to escape death? The second installment in an unforgettable trilogy,Domina is the next sexy, ruthless, and decadent thriller from mastermind L. S. Hilton, and an adventure that will push Judith further than even she imagined she could go"-- Provided by publisher.

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane is a great thriller

Booklist Reviews 2017 March #2
*Starred Review* Lehane is one of our most versatile crime writers: he's done series mysteries (the Kenzie-Gennaro novels), stand-alone thrillers (Mystic River, 2001), horror-thriller blends (Shutter Island, 2003), and large-scale historical novels (The Given Day, 2008), and he's done them all superbly. Now he adds psychological thrillers to his résumé. Rachel Childs, the protagonist in this slalom course of a tale, is a mess. She was once a rising television journalist, but an on-camera meltdown sent her career into free fall and left her a virtual shut-in, obsessed with finding her father, who vanished from her life as a child. Everything changes when she falls in love with her own Mr. McDreamy, Brian Delacroix, and he slowly pulls her out of her shell. Then the slalom course takes its most jarring turn: Is Brian hiding something? Well, yes, he's hiding plenty.A lot of thrillers boast twisty plots, but Lehane plies his corkscrew on more than the story line. The mood and pace of the novel change directions, too, jumping from thoughtful character study to full-on suspense thriller, like a car careening down San Francisco's Lombard Street, cautiously at one moment, hell-bent at another. But this narrative vehicle never veers out of control, and when Lehane hits the afterburners in the last 50 pages, he produces one of crime fiction's most exciting and well-orchestrated finalesâ€"rife with dramatic tension and buttressed by rich psychological interplay between the characters. Don't be surprised if Since We Fell makes readers forget about that other psychological thriller featuring an unstable heroine named Rachel.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The buzz has already begun for this one and will soon reach ear-shattering levels, aided by the author's 15-city tour and a full component of bells and whistles. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Agent M : the lives and spies of MI5's Maxwell Knight by Henry Hemming,reading now

The Shadow Land: A Novel: by Elizabeth Kostova is what i'm reading now

American kingpin : the epic hunt for the criminal mastermind behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton. is very good

LJ Reviews 2017 May #1
Bilton (special correspondent, Vanity Fair; Hatching Twitter) has written the first and definitive account of the Dark Web drug bazaar known as the Silk Road. Thanks to his access to trial transcripts, web postings of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, and interviews with government players and friends of Ulbricht, this book brims with fascinating detail. It alternates between accounts of baffled federal agents trying to identify the ghostly "Dread Pirate Roberts," Ulbricht's online persona, and his Libertarian upbringing and actions. Bilton excels in showing how Ulbricht, otherwise undistinguished professionally, recognized that warring government agencies, including corrupt agents, were unable to police the anonymous reaches of the Internet. Hiring worldwide help to run a marketplace in drugs, guns, and human organs, Ulbricht could demonstrate his superiority, change society, and get rich in Bitcoin. This deeply researched book is a pleasure to read and a nightmare foretold for law enforcement. VERDICT Highly recommended for true crime and technology fans.â€"Harry Charles, St. Louis

The man who designed the future : Norman Bel Geddes and the invention of twentieth-century America by B. Alexandra Szerlip. is very good

The loveliest woman in America : a tragic actress, her lost diaries, and her granddaughter's search for home by Bibi good

The swan thieves : a novel by Elizabeth Kostova is good

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.

Booklist Reviews 2017 May #1
*Starred Review* Secret love and the suggestion of something unearthly moving in the Essex Blackwater drive the intricate plot of this atmospheric historical novel about Cora Seaborne, a widow visiting Colchester with her companion, ostensibly to explore the estuary for fossils. A medieval "winged serpent" myth still holds the inhabitants of Aldwinter in thrall, despite the best efforts of the local rector, Will Ransome; and as Perry's second novel (following After Me Comes the Flood, 2015) wends its way through mysterious disappearances, fog-laden visions, suspicion, and tragedy, it seems as if the monster is real. The vivid, often frightening imagery (the Leviathan, a shack sinking in the bog, the scrape of scales moving up the shingle) and the lush descriptions ("stained glass angels had the wings of jays") create a magical background for the sensual love story between Sarah and Will. Book-discussion groups will have a field day with the imagery, the well-developed characters, and the concepts of innocence, evil, and guilt. Like Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton (2008), the appearance of a sea monster sheds more light on humanity than on natural history, while the sudden revelation of a creature of the deep heralds change and revelation, as in Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes is great

Booklist Reviews 2017 April #1
Originally published in the UK in 2009, The Horse Dancer differs sharply from Moyes' later works (Me before You, 2012). Fourteen year-old Sarah cares only about her grandfather and her horse, Boo. She spends all her time at a London urban stable, training with Boo to follow in her grandfather's footsteps in joining an elite French equestrian academy. When an accident turns her world upside down, Sarah's care falls to Natasha, a lawyer who works with children, and her Natasha's ex-husband, Mac. Sarah is determined to reach the academy, but unless she can share her secrets with Natasha and Mac, she may lose not only her dream of being accepted at Le Cadre Noir, but Boo as well. Alternating narration between Sarah and Natasha, this somewhat bloated novel shines a light on a unique kind of dressage, urban stables, and the love of a girl for her horse. The exposition is a bit drawn out, and Sarah and Natasha come across as unlikable at times. Yet, with a touch of adventure, Moyes offers a lovely comment on the importance of discipline, love, and persistence in our relationships. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An object of beauty : a novel bySteve Martin.,comment is wonderful,but not mine,its by Andrew Butterfield

A small but typical example: a key character in the book is a European collector of paintings, and when he first appears he has oily hair and an open silk shirt, exposing gold chains and a hairy chest (like the characters in Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guys” skits). Later he is seen wearing an Armani suit. I have met hundreds of collectors in New York and elsewhere, and not one ever went about with an open shirt and gold chains or wore a suit that said Armani. Not one. The men tend to wear custom-made clothing, and in a range of styles of business attire. Other than the quality of the fabric and the stitching, which you have to look to see, rarely does it proclaim its high sartorial quality. It is not ostentatious, and it is not a recognizable brand. But with unintended irony, everything in Martin's book is a brand, a mass-produced badge of belonging to the elite. 

Exhibitionism : art in an era of intolerance by Lynne Munson. very good

Munson, a cultural critic and researcher at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), takes the "culture wars" of the 1990s and their origins as her topics. Though not dissecting the Battle at Tilted Arc, the Siege of Piss Christ, Mapplethorpe's Last Stand, the Finley Offensive, and the Great Dung War, Munson uses these and other examples from the decade to demonstrate that postmodern thought is the real intolerance at work in the arts. It is postmodernism, a cousin of deconstructionism, she argues, that turned art away from a search for truth or a range of aesthetics and into a study of power. Munson's solid scholarship is supported by her insider's knowledge of NEH funding patterns (appendixes track grants from broad support for the arts to more focused support for video and performance artists who often led the effort to critique society). Munson builds her case carefully and offers a fresh viewpoint absent from the media snippets. Her book makes a significant contribution to the always heated and never resolved discussion of "offensive" art. Recommended for general and topical collections. David Bryant, New Canaan Lib., CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Antifragile : things that gain from disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. just put on reserve at NYPL “nonsissy.”

Booklist Reviews 2012 November #2
Judging by his anecdotes, Taleb interacts with the economic masters of the universe as he jets from New York to London or attends business-politics confabs in Davos, Switzerland. Anything but awed by them, Taleb regards them as charlatans, not as credible experts. Such skepticism toward elites, which imbued Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007), continues in this work, which grapples with a concept Taleb coins as "antifragile." Not readily reducible to a definition (Taleb takes the whole book to develop the idea), suffice to say here that antifragile's oppositesâ€"economic, political, or medical systems that are vulnerable to sudden collapseâ€"tend to be managed by highly educated people who think they know how systems work. But they don't, avers Taleb. Their confidence in control is illusory; their actions harm rather than help. In contrast, Taleb views decentralized systemsâ€"the entrepreneurial business rather than the bureaucratized corporation, the local rather than the central governmentâ€"as more adaptable to systemic stresses. Emphatic in his style and convictions, Taleb grabs readers given to musing how the world works. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.                            LJ Reviews 2013 January #1
Taleb's (risk engineering, New York Univ.; Black Swans) unorthodox thinking and luminescent style manifest themselves in a fusillade of neologisms, creative phraseology, and quirky illustrations. In his previous work, the author outlined the impact of rare, unpredictable events and foretold the impending financial crisis. Here he uses the concept of "antifragility" to show how we can protect ourselves from inevitable personal and societal calamities. The global financial crisis of 2008 is the watershed event of the narrative. Yet Taleb adroitly weaves in strands of psychology, child development, medicine, biology, civics, philosophy, education, military strategy, and the classics to explain how antifragility can make people and systems stronger in the same way that bones need stress to grow denser. VERDICT Taleb's tome is by turns entertaining, thought-provoking, silly, brilliant, and irreverent, yet his logic remains cogent and his message clear throughout. His wit and substance have already found him a worldwide audience; this book is likely to create him an even more robust fan base.â€"Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Libs.
[Page 97]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.                                                                                                   

LJ Reviews Newsletter
Taleb's (risk engineering, New York Univ.; Black Swans) unorthodox thinking and luminescent style manifest themselves in a fusillade of neologisms, creative phraseology, and quirky illustrations. In his previous work, the author outlined the impact of rare, unpredictable events and foretold the impending financial crisis. Here he uses the concept of "antifragility" to show how we can protect ourselves from inevitable personal and societal calamities. The global financial crisis of 2008 is the watershed event of the narrative. Yet Taleb adroitly weaves in strands of psychology, child development, medicine, biology, civics, philosophy, education, military strategy, and the classics to explain how antifragility can make people and systems stronger in the same way that bones need stress to grow denser. VERDICT Taleb's tome is by turns entertaining, thought-provoking, silly, brilliant, and irreverent, yet his logic remains cogent and his message clear throughout. His wit and substance have already found him a worldwide audience; this book is likely to create him an even more robust fan bas e. â€"Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Libs. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.                     PW Reviews 2012 October #3
In this overstuffed, idiosyncratic theory of everything we don't know, financial adviser and epistemologist Taleb amplifies his megaselling The Black Swan with further musings on the upside of unpredictable upheavals. Ranging haphazardly across probability theory, classical philosophy, government, medicine, and other topics, he contrasts large, complex, "fragile" systems that try to minimize risk but collapse under unforeseen volatility with small, untethered, "antifragile" systems structured to reap advantages from disorder. Taleb's accessible, stimulating exposition of these ideas yields cogent insights, particularly in financeâ€"his specialty. (He essentially inflates a hedging strategy into a philosophy of life.) Often, however, his far-flung polymathic digressions on everything from weight-lifting regimens to the Fukushima meltdown or the unnaturalness of toothpaste feel tossed-off and unconvincing, given his dilettantish contempt for expert "knowledge-shknowledge." Taleb's vigorous, blustery prose drips with Nietzschean scorn for academics, bankers, and bourgeois "sissies" who crave comfort and moderation: "If you take risks and face your fate with dignity," he intones, "insults by half-men (small men, those who don't risk)" are no more rankling than "barks by non-human animals." More worldview than rigorous argument, Taleb's ramblings may strike readers with knowledge-shknowledge as ill-considered; still, he presents a richâ€"and often tellingâ€"critique of modern civilization's obsession with security. Illus. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Nov. 27)
[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin looking foward to this...

Pearl : a new verse translation by Simon Armitage. I might give this a try...

LJ Reviews 2016 February #2
Armitage (poetry, Univ. of Sheffield, UK), well-known for his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, turns his skill to Pearl, another poem published in the same manuscript and possibly composed by the same anonymous author. Pearl tells the poignant tale of a man's grief over the loss of a young girl; he falls into a dream and is guided toward acceptance of death and hope for divine redemption. As the original Middle English text may be difficult for contemporary readers to grasp, Armitage's expert translation speaks to a modern audience with as little disturbance to the rhythm and structure of the original as possible. Divided into 20 sections, the 1,212-line poem in this edition has facing original text and is supplemented by helpful footnotes. VERDICT Armitage successfully and exquisitely translates this classic poem, providing readers with a clear and complete version that honors the original. Recommended for readers of poetry and literature, particularly scholars of medieval English literature.â€"Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ. Lib., Manchester

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spook Street by Mick Herron great! spent 11 years in the met. Uniform? Why do you ask? Just painting a mental picture. Ive spent some years in uniform,naturally. Have you still got it?She rolled her eyes.Don't be shy,he said,a figure like yours,and a uniform handy That's gunna make some man happy.Maybe i'm gay. Well picturing that's gunna make a lot of men very happy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The night tourist by Katherine Marsh one of my favorite books

Booklist Reviews 2007 November #1
Although only a freshman in high school, Jack Perdu is a classics whiz who is helping a Yale University scholar with her new translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Since the death of his mother, the boy has become increasingly withdrawn and friendless. When he's accidentally struck by a car, his life changes dramatically. Sent to New York for a medical consultation, Jack finds himself exploring an unknown underworld beneath the city alongside a fascinating girl who calls herself Euri. Is it coincidental that Jack's favorite Greek myth is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice? And are those dead people he's seeing? Some of the ensuing plot twists seem more manufactured than imagined, but this first children's book by the managing editor of The New Republic has an interesting premise, rooted in mythology, and a nicely realized underworld setting. And who can complain about encounters with the shades of Brooks Atkinson, Tennessee Williams, and Dylan Thomas? Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Monday, March 6, 2017


About halfway through “The American Painter Emma Dial” the title character makes the obligatory pilgrimage to West 24th Street in Chelsea, to attend an art opening. Emma Dial is an appealing woman of 31, talented but not excessively driven, who earns her living as an assistant to a celebrated male painter. When she arrives at the gallery, the room is jammed with people she recognizes, and she thinks, with only minimum exaggeration, that all of them fall into one of two categories: “Anyone who was not famous was someone’s assistant.”

David Zaugh
Samantha Peale

New York is crawling with a hidden underclass of people who are essential to the perpetuation of creative achievement. Lately, it seems, they have generated a genre of fiction all their own: the assist-and-tell novel, which typically recounts the indignities of an entry-level job at a fashion magazine, a film studio or some other fabled precinct of the culture industry. Such novels tend to pit an unsung innocent against an acclaimed if creatively depleted elder and bemoan the injustice of a world in which assistants supply the imaginative vitality for dictator types who garner the credit and rewards.
In her witty and impressively observed debut novel Samantha Peale has given us what is probably the first novel narrated by a studio assistant in New York in the 21st century. When the novel opens, Emma Dial is about to begin her seventh year as a full-time factotum to Michael Freiburg, a pompous and self-satisfied painter in his 50s. He works in a palatial loft on Christie Street, on the Lower East Side, and owns a dog (a Great Dane) that is similarly oversized. He paints moody landscapes, scenes of gnarled tree branches and green tornadoes that sell for properly inflated sums of money.
If Michael Freiburg’s pictures have a defining feature, it is probably the alarming circumstances of their creation: someone else paints them. Most every day Emma Dial can be found in his studio, listening to NPR and diligently applying paint to canvas under his direction.
There is, of course, a long and mostly reputable tradition of young painters assisting older ones. Masters from Rembrandt on down employed apprentices to stretch their canvases, mix their pigments and fill in around the edges; the goal was to maximize production and lend a workshop the hum of efficiency. Nonetheless Michael Freiburg is a unique figure, if only in the depth of his laziness. As Emma notes with predictable annoyance: “He did not spend any time painting. Any time at all. He told me he did not miss it either.”
If Michael depends on Emma to furnish his work with whatever visual richness it has, he poaches on her sexual vitality as well. She lives within walking distance of his studio, and Michael, who is married, frequently stops by unannounced. Their lovemaking is markedly downtown in spirit, with all that implies about unconventional locales and the pungent scent of oil paint and turpentine. As Emma recounts, “Our first sexual foray took place at the studio, leaning against the wall between canvases, and was harshly overlit.”
The author worked for four years as a studio assistant to the sculptor Jeff Koons, which can tempt one to read the novel as a roman à clef offering insight into the workings of the florid Koonsian brain. But this would be pointless. For one thing, Michael Freiburg is not a sculptor, and Ms. Peale situates him in a studio stocked with sable brushes, colors chosen “from the Pantone catalog” and other staples of the painter’s craft.
On the other hand, the novel does have a based-on-experience directness about it, so much so that in weaker moments it strays from sharp-eyed observation into the mush of unfiltered whining. “Maybe he had to look down on me, patronize me, think of me as inferior to him so that he could compete to be the best,” Emma notes, in a tone reminiscent of self-help books.
In reveries enhanced by the soothing effects of cigarettes and nail biting, she sadly concludes that the rewards of her job — the steady paycheck, the proximity to fame — have led her astray from her childhood ambition. She wants to be a painter in her own right, and her growing despair over the uncommitted, unexpressed part of herself finally forces her to act.
Emma Dial, in the end, is a stirring reminder of the countless young artists stuck in captivity as assistants, hoping their gifts will extricate them. By her own account she has an uncommon talent for rendering objects with verisimilitude; she can draw anything, in any style. But that alone does not get her far. Truth be told, success as an artist is the sum of many variables that can include luck, good timing, exceptional energy and a ruthless willingness to trample your grandmother in the quest for painterly glory. Of course it’s a plus if you have a few ideas, or what used to be known as a vision.
What does it take to be a great artist? This novel supplies a new and not implausible definition: An artist is someone who refuses to work as anyone’s assistant.
Image result for THE AMERICAN PAINTER EMMA DIAL By Samantha Peale
Image result for THE AMERICAN PAINTER EMMA DIAL By Samantha Peale

Friday, February 17, 2017

Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison on reserve at NYPL

Library Journal Reviews
MacArthur Fellow Jamison, a Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry whose best sellers include An Unquiet Mind, chronicles major American poet Robert Lowell's forthright showdown with bipolar illness by drawing on unprecedented access to Lowell's medical records, previously unpublished drafts and fragments of poems, and conversations with his daughter. Clarifying the relationship between mental illness and creativity.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Jamison (An Unquiet Mind), a psychologist and honorary professor of English at St. Andrew's University, is uniquely qualified to pursue the connections between creativity and mania—in this case, through the brilliant example of American poet Robert Lowell (1917–1977). He was born into a prominent New England family from which he inherited both deep Puritan roots and a legacy of manic depression. Jamison's study is a "narrative" of his illness. She is not interested in biography per se, but does place Lowell's mental health in the context of his life and show his illness's influence on his poems. Jamison paints a sympathetic but brutally honest portrait of what manic depressive disorder can do to both sufferers and the people around them—her depiction of Lowell's second wife, critic and fiction author Elizabeth Hardwick, is especially compelling. She is able to draw on medical records from his various hospitalizations, released by Lowell's family to Jamison, and bring her own medical expertise to bear. Some judicious editing would not go amiss—this is a long read with some repetition—but Jamison has constructed a novel and rewarding way to view Lowell's life and output. (Feb.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford on reserve at NYPL

PW Reviews 2016 December #2
In her debut, Halford, a copy editor at the New Yorker, weaves the story of her young adulthood with the history of the popular daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest, which she, her mother, and her grandmother have all incorporated into their spiritual practices. The devotional, assembled from the writings of Scottish preacher Oswald Chambers (1874â€"1915), was edited and published posthumously by his wife, Biddy, and has remained in print ever since. Halford recounts her quest to learn more about Chambers's life, faith, and writings, adding her reflections on what the book has meant in her own life. An evangelical raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, Halford attended Barnard College and has worked for many years at the New Yorkerâ€"a life far removed from the modern American Evangelical subculture. Chambers's life and legacy, along with Halford's own personal journey, prove to be a powerful lens through which to examine the roots of fundamentalist evangelicalism and its rocky relationship with the modern world. Although the book is first and foremost a memoir, neither a full biography of Chambers nor a history of modern evangelicalism, those interested in either topic will appreciate the "Further Reading" essay and select bibliography at the end of the work. Halford's enlightening memoir is a must-read for those interested in My Utmost for His Highest or evangelicalism in the 21st century. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, Zoe Pagnamenta Literary. (Feb.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary,just put on reserve at NYPL

On a winter afternoon in 1941, Margaret Wise Brown (1910-52) was toiling up the side of a snowy Massachusetts mountain with two male friends. There was no chairlift at the fledgling ski resort to whisk them to the top of the slopes, and midway up Brown decided to schuss back down by herself. It wasn’t merely that she was annoyed by the climb, as Amy Gary recounts in the pages of “In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown” (Flatiron, 288 pages, $26.99). The muse was calling her.
For months, Brown had been mulling over the rhythms of a French ballad, one with an “if you/then I” word pattern, with the idea that it might lend itself to a children’s tale. “As she sped down the slope,” Ms. Gary writes, “the book crystalized in her mind.” Back at the tiny, makeshift lodge, she “dashed off a story about a child who tells his mother that he is going to run away. He threatens to turn into a variety of things to escape, but she counters each of his metamorphoses by changing into something that will bring him safely back to her.” Paired with pictures by Clement Hurd, the hurriedly scribbled story would become 1942’s “The Runaway Bunny,” which in the intervening 75 years has sold some seven million copies. In the author’s haste, she committed the first draft to the only bit of paper she had: her ski receipt.
In a biography full of lively anecdotes, this one stands out for the way it encapsulates what must have made Margaret Wise Brown so enchanting to her friends and colleagues. She was adventurous, resourceful and inventive; she also happened to be pretty, witty and given to cheeky nicknames. (She called sexually predatory women “Slitches.”)
If the measure of a good life story is the longing it leaves in the reader to have known the subject, this one more than succeeds. Brown died suddenly in 1952 at the age of 42. She was full of life and promise, still, and on the cusp of a romantic happiness that had hitherto eluded her. A series of short relationships and two long affairs—one with a married father, another with the sleek, androgynous ex-wife of the actor John Barrymore, scaldingly named the “Sappho of Long Island” in the press—had given way to real love with James “Pebble” Rockefeller. The two were shortly to be married when the bride-to-be, after an appendectomy, kicked her leg in the air to show how good she felt and sent a blood clot into her own brain.
Amy Gary tells the story not just of Brown’s romantic life, of course, but also of her august family connections (three men on her father’s side had been vice-presidential candidates); her picturesque little houses in Maine and Greenwich Village; and her place in publishing. Like N.C. Wyeth, another artist with links to Maine, Brown yearned for the respectability that came with producing work for an adult audience, but, as Ms. Gary says, to Brown’s frustration, “when she put her pencil to paper to write something for adults, another children’s story, poem or song poured out” of her. Like Wyeth, her true vocation was in the children’s realm. It is as a writer for the very young that she is near-venerated today, and rightly so. There’s a lightness in her verse, a natural and seemingly accidental beauty that echoes the way children think and speak to a degree that remains exceptional.
To recount the career of the author who gave us not only the nursery favorites “The Runaway Bunny,” “Big Red Barn” and, most famously, “Goodnight Moon” (with its “great green room”) but also more than threescore other children’s tales, Ms. Gary had access to Brown’s diaries, letters and a fantastic trove of manuscripts. She describes her astonishment some 25 years ago when Brown’s sister opened a trunk in her Vermont barn to reveal musty heaps of unpublished songs, poems, stories and musical scores on fragile onionskin paper. Ms. Gary eventually became editor of Margaret Wise Brown’s estate, shepherded dozens of her short pieces into print, and has spent the time since, she says, trying to live inside Brown’s “wildly imaginative mind.”
It is this desire that contributes to what some readers may feel a weakness of the book: that only at the very beginning and very end of “In the Great Green Room” do we hear Brown’s own voice. Each chapter starts with a bit of her poetry, including some unpublished verses, which is something, but in following the events of her life, we are vouchsafed only Ms. Gary’s representation of her thoughts and feelings.
Through a publicist, the author explains that she wanted to keep the reader “in the moment with Margaret” and that the abundance of her sources made paraphrasing the best course. Still, we may feel a bit wistful, as we finish reading this fascinating account, that we weren’t able to get somehow even closer to the undoubtedly bold and brilliant Margaret Wise Brown.